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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2078 ..


Debate resumed.

MR KAINE (5.54): Mr Speaker, I agree in principle with this Bill, which extends for a year the cap which expires in a few days' time. However, I have circulated an amendment to the Bill which I will move formally later. The amendment extends the date for the target by deleting the date 10 July 2000 from the Chief Minister's Bill and inserting in lieu thereof the date 30 June 2001. I will do that because the Select Committee on Gambling, when we reported on it, had considered putting a two-year limit on this cap but did not do so. We left it open, although we believed that it would take two years for the new gambling commission to carry out the body of research that we envisaged and to establish the database we envisaged that would allow policy decisions about the number of machines that ought to exist in the Territory to be taken.

The Chief Minister mentions in her tabling speech that she believes that this research could be completed within one year. The members of the committee believe that that would be a bit difficult to achieve, so I am seeking to extend the cap for two years instead of the one that the Chief Minister is proposing.

I understand that the Chief Minister has some concerns about this matter because her figures suggest that the number of machines already in place are in excess of 5,000 and that licences are being sought at the rate of about 350 a year. That would indicate that, if they were to continue at the same rate, we would exhaust the cap by about January or February of next year. However, I think that we should stick with the 2001 target for taking the cap off because the whole purpose of putting the cap on was to limit the number of machines that could be in existence. If we are simply going to lift the target every time we start to bump up against it, we might as well not have the target at all.

If the Assembly sees fit to extend the cap until June 2001, which is what I am proposing, it is open to the Government at any time between now and then, if they believe that there is justification, to change the size of the cap - to come back to the Assembly, produce its arguments at that time and say that they think the cap should be lifted by 200, 300, 1,000 or whatever number they think appropriate. Since the original purpose was to limit the number of machines, I would prefer to see that cap stay in place until the body of research and the database that we recommended be created are in place so that we can understand the ramifications of changing the number of machines. Until that is done, I think I would prefer to see the cap in place.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (5.58), in reply: Mr Speaker, the figures that I showed Mr Kaine before are not totally correct. Mr Quinlan might like to listen to this as well. At the end of June 1999 there were 4,970 machines - only 230 below the cap. The legislation currently on the table ensures that the cap of 5,200 on poker machines in the Territory remains in place until 10 July 2000 - halfway through next year. It is expected that this cap will be reached, as Mr Kaine said, during this financial year. On average, about 350 machines are applied for a year. This year it has been higher than that, at 445; the year before it was 423; and the year before that it was only 180; but, on average, it is about 350. That means that we will not even have enough machines inside the cap, under the Bill currently on the table, until 10 July 2000.

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